Addictions are tricky, aren’t they?

Though you know your quality of life would be much better without them, it’s hard to quit. They’re just so much fun. Drugs. Gambling. Video games. The euphoria you get when indulging in something bad for you can easily outweigh the damage done to your body, mind or bank account. And you can’t just have one hit; you keep coming back for more. That desire for the rush becomes stronger and stronger… So what’s my addiction? Hi. My name is Anna, and I love online comment forums.

I used to think that I could stop anytime I wanted, but after a three-hour bender on espn.com the other night, I know I have a problem. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even bother reading the article anymore, just the comments on it. The subject matter doesn’t matter to me, but if it’s considered in any way controversial, then boom. I’m there. And the higher the comment count, the better. When I see that an article has garnered a couple hundred comments, it’s game on. If it’s cracked a thousand, I actually get giddy. Not that I will necessarily read all thousand comments, but I’ll come close. I’m no quitter.

Why do I love reading comments so much? It fascinates me because behind the anonymity of a screen name, people will say anything. Anything. No one censors him or herself, which means that people are actually saying exactly what they think. How often does that happen in real life? For better or for worse, these comment forums provide a transparent – and sometimes terrifying – glimpse into the minds of Americans all across the country.

But as mentioned, this can be a horrifying experience. The high isn’t always so great. Sometimes it’s not even about what people are saying; it’s just their writing ability that frightens me. Where did some of these people go to school? The other day I was following a thread of comments relating to Albert Pujols and the speculation that come spring 2012, he might be in a Cubs jersey. (Please, God, please!) Of course the conversation was dominated by Cubs and Cards fans. Sidenote: if you think tensions between Israel and Palestine are bad, go to a Cubs game when they’re playing the Cardinals. Seriously.

Needless to say, the back and forth was getting pretty ugly. That’s when I came across a particular comment from a Cards fan. He was calling a Cubs fan an “embycell” for thinking Pujols would ever come to Chicago. He meant imbecile. Wrote embycell. I guess he was spelling it out phonetically? True, I was a tiny bit, or a lot, amused by the remark; the irony was just too good. On the other hand, the dude was already on a computer. Takes two seconds to look up the spelling of pretty much any word in any language on earth. Either he was too lazy to do so, or he didn’t even realize that he was spelling the word wrong. Yikes. At least it was a Cards fan.

Yet most of the time it is the comments themselves that terrify me. Sure, I have my views on religion or politics or Bieber’s new haircut, and sometimes people of an opposing viewpoint will say something that gets me all riled up. That I can handle. However, truly frightening are the people who seemingly are just one more tortured animal away from becoming full-fledged serial killers. Some people are really sick, y’all.

They reveal themselves whenever an article comes out about someone who’s died or some natural disaster that’s occurred in the world. I have no idea where this hostility comes from, but the number of people who either don’t care or think that the victims somehow deserved such a tragedy is startling. I hope I never meet these people. (They’re probably my next-door neighbors.)

That’s the only time I’m ever tempted to actually comment myself. Until now, I haven’t. As Yoda once said, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.” Wise words. Right now I’m on the cusp of the dark side; should I actually start commenting, then it’s intervention time. For the most part, though, I needn’t worry. That’s the other great thing about these forums. I may shake my head and weep for this nation from time to time, but there’s always someone out there who redeems humanity with some intelligence and common sense. For every idiot online, there’s someone smarter and more eloquent who will call out that idiot and put him in his place. It’s awesome.

Like the guy who called my fellow Cubs fan an embycell. The recipient of that remark, and about a dozen other Cubbies, were quick to not only correct him, but also publicly berate him for his supreme failure in trying to ridicule our team and legion of followers. Please, we’re Cubs fans. It’s gonna take a lot more than a poorly spelled insult to break us. One hundred and three years and going strong. Like I said, addictions are fun.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “That’s What They All Say”

Anna, this is such a great post and I, too, have thought about how some people have taken advantage of voicing their opinions online in the virtual space and think it comes down to the fact that there are unfortunately no real consequences for these people making these comments. Aside from the “delete” button being their only enemy, many people utilizing these online mediums to “say what they want to say” are showing characteristics of passive aggressiveness and, not to mention, are utterly obnoxious for everyone else.

February 26th, 2011

You are absolutely right! And whenever I see “comment has been deleted,” it makes me wonder what in the world they said to warrant it getting removed. Given that some pretty atrocious comments are allowed to remain up, it frightens me to think how bad those must have been. 🙁

February 28th, 2011